Aykan Safoğlu

Fluorescent Debts Flickering in German: Affective and aesthetic regimes of indebtedness as a 20th Century German educational product of Istanbul

My Ph.D. project explores the aesthetic and affective codes of a particular notion of ‘indebtedness’ as an outcome of German educational efforts institutionalized in Istanbul over the course of the 20th century. Using the specific example of my high school ‘Istanbul Erkek Lisesi’ which is housed in the former headquarters of a 20th-century European credit institution, I interrogate the processes through which ‘indebtedness’ as a colonial pedagogical tool compels the production of inferior subjects desirous of labor, emancipation, and citizenship models conforming to German (Western) ideals. Keeping Laurent Berlant’s argument dear to my research that a relation of ‘cruel optimism’ exists when something you desire is an obstacle to your flourishing, I contest the promise of German educational efforts in Minor Asia and thus critique the history of modern German/Turkish industrial complexes of labor, education, and military.

Leaning on the biographies of my relatives who became labor migrants in the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1960s and my educational track, I try to decipher ‘indebtedness’ as an affective genre for German pedagogy of labor and education. To reflect better upon how these superiority regimes operate, I look through the lens of affect theory and the physics of light and depart from my solo exhibition ‘Recess’ which opened at SALT Galata in Istanbul, Turkey, in February 2022.


Safoglu, Recess, 2022, ©Kayhan Kaygusuz
Aykan Safoğlu received his MFA in Photography from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College, NY. His works cultivate relationships and even friendship among cultural, geographical, linguistic, and temporal boundaries. Through his work in multiple media including film, photography, and performance, he conducts open-ended investigations into cultural identity, creativity, and kinship. Safoğlu was an artist-in-residence at institutions such as Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, and Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam between 2014-2018. Recipient of the Grand Prize of the City of Oberhausen at the 59th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (2013), and Birgit Jürgenssen Prize (2021); Safoğlu is currently a PhD-Candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
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